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Blood Will Tell
MULE CREEKJUST outside of lone, California, a small town nestled in the foothills of the old gold-mining country of the Sierra Nevada, atop a small rise, lies Mule Creek State Prison--a series of low buildings, an unattended guardhouse, a parking lot, an administration building, and, behind tall chain-link fences topped with barbed wire, three "yards," or cellblocks, each of them containing involuntary guests of the State of California.A visitor to these precincts, which were erected in 1985 by then--California Governor George Deukmejian--a former State Attorney General and a law-and-order man of storied repute--must gain access through a closely scrutinized portal. No wallets may be taken through; no writing implements of any kind; no papers; no portable telephones, no tapes, no recorders, and of course, no weapons. Only a single key is permitted, and no more than thirty dollars, and that only in one-dollar bills----change machines on the left before you enter.Shoes off before stepping through the magnetometer, followed by a wave of the wand to make sure one is sans metal. Then into the sally port through a rolling electronic gate. Wait until all is clear, then through a similar rolling barrier at the far end of the sally port.Through the sunny interior courtyard to the "C" Yard, where a pass is checked by a guard in front of a sturdy, locked door. The pass is given to another guard, and after some delay, the man you have come to see finally emerges from the interior of the prison.He is small, this man, and friendly. His once dark hair is now almost completely white. It looks as though he's lost weight, as he approaches, hand held out in greeting.Sit down at table number 13 in the cacophonous visiting area, surrounded by other inmates with their children, wives and parents--all under the watchful eye of the guards.How do you feel?--that's the question of the day."I feel cheated," says Kenneth Carroll Fitzhugh, Jr. "I'm not guilty and I'm in here."Copyright © 2003 by Carlton Smith.